I love the symbolism of Maiden-Mother-Crone. Not only was the Triple Goddess concept a life-saver for me in my 30s (when I was introduced to pagan philosophies more than twenty years ago), but I still resonate to the symbolism of Three in many ways. This leads me to feel that while we may lean one direction intellectually, I often wonder if there isn’t an energetic pattern or genetic memory associated for some of us with this connection to the Triple Goddess. But then, I link to energies, not dogma; structure can be helpful scaffolding, and provide a sense of support especially when starting on a new path, but I prefer to weave my own spiritual practice and life.
That said, my embrace of Maiden-Mother-Crone has shifted over time so that I feel the Triple Goddess not so much as abiding in or expressing as a distinct or rigid phase of life but as ebbing and flowing states of being. In other words, I continually move in and out of these three base energies that arise out of the Divine Cosmic Womb.
This perspective is even easier for me now, to be at ease with this ever-changing concept of Maiden-Mother-Crone, since studying Ayurveda and the Samkhya philosophy. That ancient healing system also views the life phases through a broad spectrum of three primary energies (child is Kapha, productive adult is Pitta, wisdom/spiritual contemplative elder is Vata) although we also, each of us, has within us the unique blend of the doshas (the three arise from the five elements) so we can access any of the energies we need and are not restricted to a particular phase of life. Ultimately, life is change and the patterns or symbols or structures we use are available to us as life support systems, however we need them to be.
Many women in the Women’s Spirituality movement seem just as obsessed with stating the idea that Maiden-Mother-Crone is not ancient tradition as are those who cling firmly to the idea that Maiden-Mother-Crone is linked to ancient tradition. And wherever each of us is, so be it … may we all find our highest and deepest healing path. Because one new-pagan approach was “re-created” by a man (Gerald Gardner) and a man (Robert Graves) developed the concept of three goddesses as aligned with three lunar phases, many women now go overboard the other direction to disparage their ideas. I used to do that, too, and still occasionally find myself resisting something simply because a man created, developed, or expanded upon an idea or concept. However, the older I get, the more at ease I am in realizing that we’re all human and there are brilliant, sensitive men able to tap into women’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions, spiritual or otherwise. (It probably helps that my husband is a loving, generous example of this kind of man.)
Further, this determined adherence to fact or data – only accepting what has been “proven” — is often a defensive move so that people don’t think women are crazily irrational in their belief system. Not that this is an imaginary response. Sadly, we still experience a duality – the one that says men are rational, and women are not. I feel like a lot of women continue to retain a lot of anger, bitterness, and defensiveness, based upon their (our) experiences of men, duality, hierarchy, and/or patriarchy. Feminism has evolved and come a long way, but the movement is far from over.
Recently I heard of a spiritual teacher who begins many lectures or teachings with the phrase: “maybe I’m wrong but…”. This opens up the conversation and lets the speaker, right from the start, admit to the listeners that there are other possibilities than just the one she personally advocates for herself. This is where I like to place myself, as well, and it allows for transformative experiences and beliefs. I don’t care to experience life from within the confines of yes or no, true or false, fact or fiction. So, while I may have my own theories and belief system, it’s just that…mine.
This leads me to my appreciation for a recent post on Feminism and Religion by Carol Christ, a foremother of the Women’s Spirituality movement. I’ve read all of Carol’s books, many of her articles, and have long admired her as a sort of kindred spirit. I love that she continues to share her thoughts and feelings through her own spiritual and life journey; she has had a tremendous impact upon my own journey. However, since I’m not an academic person, I have no deep need or desire to accept, confirm, or deny definitively whether the Triple Goddess symbolism is “an ancient pattern” or a modern creation. Carol ends with:
“Ours is not a tradition handed down intact from the ancient past, rather it is a new creative synthesis of aspects of the past combined with contemporary insight and experience. Once we recognize that the Triple Goddess is a contemporary creation, we are free to affirm Maiden, Mother, Crone—or to use other symbols.”
So, I guess I both agree and disagree with the above. Maybe the Triple Goddess is ancient memory, maybe not. That’s not important to me. What I do agree with is that each of us is always free to access that which resonates, whether old, new, or unknown, and to then create powerful, healing symbols and systems for ourselves and the world.